49 years of bargaining
8: I don’t believe in Santa Claus anymore, so why
should I believe in you? Old man with a white beard
holding a stick. One has a red coat, one has a golden coat.
I know my dad doesn’t think you are real.
Are you also the God of aliens? Of dolphins?
12: I will have better luck in a swim race if I do good things,
like pick up gum wrappers, discarded A & W cans
on the pool deck before the race. I don’t care
if people think I am weird if it makes me go faster.
God, that race did not feel different, it felt terrible.
I did those things and I didn’t better my time. Where did I get
the idea that God rewards good deeds? I’m never doing that again.
17: There has to be something more
than just praying to get things. Everyone
is so focused on their chicken sandwiches, or their car’s new rims,
or their Ivy Leagues. I am rarely lucky and I have to grind
my ass off in the pool to get a scholarship and maintain a 4.0
and try to ask out Katy but I know she doesn’t like me
because I look like I am 14. I roll the rock up…
18: The sky is clicking and the incense tastes
like lemon lavender and the asphalt ripples under my legs.
How do I speak with this LSD silvering my sinuses?
When do the doors open to see the Grateful Dead?
The sky blooms inside veins and cherry stems pulse.
Someone looks at me and she looks like God with echo pupils.
I was wrong. Every molecule springs with words.
21: I can’t have a baby now. Please, whatever Old Man
with whatever robe. Forgive me. I am going to ask her to end it.
I will have to find money. She cries, I harden and dry in the parking lot
next to her car. I know people do this. I never thought I would be one.
Now I have something to cut off my body to repay.
I bury my reasons for praying. I promise nothing.
I blame and remember, even though I leave myself for a while.
24: Father, you are going. Where? I saw you deflate
as I gripped your shoulder. Your presence around me
deafens the blinking machines and crow-call alarms.
Let him go, nurses. Let him go to wherever he is going.
He rejoins where nothing can be broken.
28: I have tried to open every image for my students
by reading novels out loud, by using all of my light
to shine out until, Lord, my liver and lungs and kidneys
lie empty as damp shells and my hands shake.
This is not why I came here, is it?
35: My wife cheated on me
and I have been a good husband and she loves someone else.
God damn you! Why did I love and waste years?
We did laugh but she never wanted to have sex.
Why didn’t I realize? Why, God, did I have to witness
every vow starve on the ends of wires?
36: This glowing girl? She is interested in me?
The starlings bring each crushed bit of wing into
a bright body, three hundred birds turn in unison
over the rocks of the jetty at Westport,
our feet red and brown in the evening sun.
41: Nausea and waking to a well
that bounds with heartbeats. If this anxiety persists,
I don’t know if it is feasible to continue.
Why did you place me in this terrible workplace?
Do I believe in you enough to blame you?
I cannot reason with the howling and thrashing. I cannot eat.
This is the only time I don’t want to live.
And every morning I wake again.
42: My daughter, pink twisted scream of glass
coming out of her uterus and into our hands.
Thank you, God. I can’t swallow all the passion.
Our boat tips in the swell, tears and milk pour off the deck.
I forgive by virtue of drowning.
45: The screen cracks because of my addiction.
All lies open and darken our new house,
the windows full of flies, the basement and attic
full of rats chewing on our bonds like spies.
46: I will clean and promise again.
Salt into gums, rat feces under nails.
Years of telling the real truth
and tearing the groin from its fixations.
My love, my God, all the soiled covers come off the words.
I did this myself, God. Don’t take credit.
49: Pregnant again?
I don’t know whether to curse you or praise you
for delivering on our wishes so quickly.
Please God, let the child be healthy and whole.
I won’t tell you what I am willing to sacrifice to make that so.
You might just demand it.
Scott Ferry helps our Veterans heal as an RN. He has recent work in Cultural Weekly, KYSO Flash, Slippery Elm, Prometheus Dreaming, and many others. He was a finalist in the Write Bloody Chapbook Contest in 2019. His first collection The only thing that makes sense is to grow comes out in January 2020 from Moon Tide Press.
“Like”, “Share”, and comment on this poem to nominate it for the Annual Swimming with Elephants Publications 2020 Anthology.
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